Oct 18, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (Live action Movie)

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends opens in Singapore theatres 8th October and is probably one of the few movies that I watch so close to it's launch hahha. As of today,  i have watched the movies twice in the theatre!

 

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As a big fan of the Manga, I held high hopes for the live action. Especially after the wonderful execution of the first movie, the Kyoto Arc with all it's wonderful characters and back story seemed like a wonderful sequel to act (pun intended lol) on.

 

This shall be a totally unprofessional and raw ramble from a long time RurouKen fan girl. This is spoiler filled so don't say I didn't warn you!

 

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The movie started with a flashback of the young Kenshin (Shinta!) and his master; Hiko Senjuro! Masaharu Fukuyama plays the muscular swordman who is the master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style.

 

Fans of popular actor Masaharu Fukuyama will get to squeal at his appearance for a long time because he appeared for majority of the first half. I did find the first half of the movie a little slow in pace but Fukuyama's performance as the egotistic and strict master made for an interesting watch.

 

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I had my reservations when Fukuyama was announced as Hiko Seijuro since the Fukuyama I knew was a skinny guy in black suits while Hiko Seijuro was a big and muscular man.

 

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But I was pleasantly surprised to see the size difference compensated with the help of specially designed costumes and camera angle. Fukuyama is still not as massive as Hiko Seijuro but he appears significantly bigger than Kenshin and it all worked out on screen.

 

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One particular thing I noticed about the show was; why does everyone look so sweaty and dirty? Pretty much everyone looked like they all enjoyed tanning and needed shampooing ahaha! There were many scenes in the movie where I just felt like dragging Sanosuke and Yahiko to the shower hahaha

 

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See what I mean? LOL! I understand the dirt and grim was to bring realism and urgency to the plot but ... they just looked too dirty hahaha. Towards the end Sanosuke was pretty much red with blood xD

 

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The part with the Oniwabanshu Ojisan (Kashiwazaki Nenji) going off on his own to stop Aoshi was facepalm worthy. I know it was to lead the meeting of Aoshi and Kenshin but it felt a little weak ( I mean the plot , not the old man). That said though, I did enjoyed the fight scenes between Aoshi and Kenshin. It all happened a little too fast for my untrained eyes and I'm sure I can better appreciate it when I get around to rewatching it (again). Afterall, most if not all of the stunts were done by the actors themselves! Check out this behind-the-scene video of Takeru Sato performing stunts without any wires!

 

 

A big kudos to Aoshi's actor; Yusuke Iseya. I didn't find his performance in the previous movie particularly moving and even went to the extend of feeling a little disappointed that the handsome Aoshi looked like this (sorry fans of Iseya!) . BUT this movie has changed my mind! Probably due to the change in plot and lighting,  Iseya completely brought Aoshi to life here! His statue, build and prominent features really stood out in this instalment. His portrayal of the frustrated and tormented Aoshi was ace!

 

new live-action Rurouni Kenshin sequel movie teasers_Shinomori Aoshi

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My only complaint was how weak they made Aoshi looked compared to Kenshin who took him down near effortlessly. In the original manga Kenshin suffered pretty extensive wounds from his battle with Aoshi and it really helped forced Kenshin into a new level of determination when he faced off with Shishio

 

 

The front of Kenshin's Gi was slashed through when he fought with Aoshi but when he reached the Dojo in Tokyo, the same blue Gi he wore was perfectly fine. Hahaa, did kenshin have a change of clothes stashed away in the little bundle behind him or is that a movie mistake I spot xD?

 

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Takei Emi as Kamiya Kaoru was also especially beautiful in these 2 movie. I have a lot of problem accepting the part with Kaoru getting hospitalised. Other than the fact that she was lucky enough to survive the ocean and then get saved by a fishing shipmen who admitted her to a hospital in Kyoto (I thought she'd be drifted somewhere further!) . My biggest grip was how can someone who just woke up from a coma walk so strong and level headedly around by herself?! The part with Sano taking 5 seconds to realise she was gone did give the theatre some cheap laughs though hahaa. However like my friends said, it was slightly disappointing to see Sano reduced to a comic relief in the movie.

 

I was majorly disappointed that they took out the part of Kaoru versus Kamatari. It was the only scene in the ENTIRE series where you see Kaoru actually winning a fight and proving she is more than a damsel in distress!

 

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Sano: I don’t wanna be a comic relief either *pouts*

 

Shishio being so unappealing both aesthetically and characteristically, was never a character I found any interest in. My bigger impression of this particular arc was Juppongatana and the marvellous fights put up by Kaoru and Yahiko. I feel a little shallow typing this out but that's brutal honesty for ye!

 

Kenshin versus Soujirou

 

In the original manga, the story development of Seta Soujirou against Kenshin was very well done. The story slowly builds Soujirou up as this immensely powerful Swordsman who can move faster than Kenshin who already moves in "God-like" speed. He is sculpted as a beautiful boy who appears calm and cheerful yet kills with no hesitation nor fear; a foe who forced Kenshin into defeat (okay, a tie) the first time in the series.

In their final battle, Soujirou went mentally crazy and lost his calm against an enemy for the first time in his young life. The manga then brings Soujirou down benevolently; Kenshin style. In the manga (and Anime I think) , they made it very clear that the biggest reason why Soujirou lost to Kenshin was not because he lacked the technique or athletic senses. But because he couldn't deal with the fact that someone as strong as Kenshin could hold and live by such a romanticized ideal of "Not Killing" ; and he lost his ability to mask his emotions.

 

Kenshin versus Senkaku

 

In the manga/anime, Kenshin went as far as showing Shishio a move from his Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu just to save an enemy he detested. I don't know about you but if I was a pugilist or swordsman facing an enemy, I'd store as much trump cards as I can instead of flashing my moves around like my enemy won't see through them. Kenshin knew the handicap but he was worried even about his enemy; a big man who terrorised an entire village and killed 99 people. He was benevolent to everyone and that pissed Soujirou off because the only way Soujirou had been able to coped with his traumatic past was to believe that only "the strong will live and the weak shall die" and killing was simply a way of living.

Like Kenshin mentioned in the manga, Soujirou is probably a kind hearted boy that never wanted to kill anyone. And having to kill so many people brought about an immense amount of stress and contradictions.

 

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I had always liked Soujirou and I'm even in the midst of preparing to cosplay him. So the showdown and then breakdown scene between him and kenshin was a part I had greatly anticipated. Maybe it was due to my overwhelming amount of anticipation that paved my disappointed because even after watching the movie twice, I still found it difficult to give credit to the scene.

 

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I understand there are limitations in a Movie adaption and the director didn't have the luxury of time to explain Soujirou's traumatic childhood. However I felt that some of the screen time given to Hiko Seijuro in the beginning could have been allocated to Seta Soujirou instead to give viewers who don’t read the original manga, a more impactful understanding of the meltdown.

 

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The battleship setting really constricted the battle space and was unable to fully demonstrate Soujirou's Shunkaku; the ability to move so fast it looks as if the space between him and his opponent had been shrunk. This battle between Soujirou and Kenshin was definite not as impressive as the previous movie.

 

This particular scene didn't portray Kenshin's difficulty in battling Soujirou nor did it give Kenshin the chance to be the benevolent and kind swordsman he was respected for. I mean not killing Soujirou was of course benevolent but the whole act just felt really hastily put together .

 

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Maybe because I was too steadfast on my expectations of Soujirou and the story, I actually felt more could be done by the directors and maybe costume designers to help Kamiki Ryunosuke morph into Soujirou better. I know there are a lot of Kamiki fans out but take note that I’m not bashing him. I’ve read up about the efforts and enthusiasm he’s put into the role and definitely admire actors they courageously step up to challenging roles.

 

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I just felt that he looked better in his original self than as Seta Soujirou; get what I mean? See the above? He even looks better in random behind-the-scenes than he does in the final movie! I’m not sure if it’s the hair or the expression or the angles or costumes or whatnot but… you get what I mean.

 

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Sanosuke's involvement was a little insignificant and boorish this time round though his role helped lightened the mood of an otherwise very heavy theme. And of course since the movie cut a lot of the original story away, you don’t get to see him acquire and use Futae no Kiwami. Which is a pity because I really wanted to see how they’d execute that in real life.

 

That said though, Aoki Munetaka’s performance as Sanosuke was still enjoyable to watch even though it strays from my perception of Sanosuke. My biggest complain however, is still how dirty he looked! He pretty much turned red in the last part of the show LOL

 

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I have a lot of things to say about the final battle between Shishio and Kenshin. I understand once again that live action adaption is totally different ball game from Anime/Manga. But do they really need to turn it into a gang fight? I understand it is to pay tribute to the original storyline where Kenshin was knocked unconscious by the bomb Shishio fired in his face and the other 3 guys had to fight Shishio to stall for time.

 

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The gang fight mode made Shishio look incredibly powerful (which I guess was the intend) but also made Kenshin looked very weak. Even though the original manga had Saito, Sanosuke and Aoshi come in to intervene majority of the fights was still carried out by Kenshin alone.

 

I’m sorry if I sounded really picky but I guess I just didn’t like how messy and unsophisticated the final battle turned out looking on screen.

 

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The first time I watched the movie, I wasn’t particularly impressed by Fujiwara Tatsuya’s acting. However the 2nd time I watched the movie, I’ve come to appreciate his acting better. The first time I watched, I felt his acting lacking emotion and impact, then I realise it’s because of the bandages covering his face! No wonder I couldn’t sense his emotion as much because the expressions have all been covered up! Naturally, Fujiwara had to focus on acting with his voice which particularly shine through in the ending scene where he burnt himself up.

 

I wish they’d kept Hoji conscious throughout the fight just as the original had. I believe it will help to give more depth to Shishio’s character as someone who is more than just barbaric killing but also an intelligent and charismatic leader.

 

I also wished they had lingered for a few minutes more on Maryjun Takahashi who acted as Yumi. The death scene of Yumi could have been better played out to earn a bit more tears ahha.

 

I did liked how exact they replicated the lines though!

 

 

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*read from right to left.*

 

In the final of the final showdown, Kenshin told Shishios that “Hitokiris like us, has had out time” which Shishio then replied “ No, as long as I have this Mugen Sword in my hand, it will not end” . I’m not sure why but I didn’t quite get it when I was watching the movie. However when i re-read the manga again I could totally feel Kenshin’s words.

 

This has been a very long entry and has took me many nights and bus rides to type out so I’m going to speedily end it now.

 

The BGM of the movie was a very surprising combination of Japanese, Middle Eastern and Modern rock. Don’t quote me on music terms but that’s just how I thought. The music really helped build up the mood though I found it a little overused. Don’t get me wrong, I love the OST and have been looping it non stop! However the music was used in several parts of the transition scenes to ramp up the tension only to end in nothing conclusive and then cuts to another scene.

 

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Overall, this is definitely a movie worth catching on the big screen. On top of the amazing performance by the cast, it’s easy to tell the amount of passion the staffs have put in for the colours , composition , costumes, wigs and realistic restoration of the Meiji era’s environment! It was all a such feast for the eyes! I had so much fun staring at the costume and hair details in HD haha.

 

As a ardent fan of the Manga, I’d give the movie 7.5/10 for missing some of the key elements in the manga that made Kyoto Arc as cool as it was. However if I based my scores purely as a casual movie go-er, I’d give the movie 8.5/10!

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